Yes, A Games Writer Was Fired Over Review Scores

Yes, A Games Writer Was Fired Over Review Scores
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Back in 2007, GameSpot writer Jeff Gerstmann left the site under suspicious circumstances. It was heavily rumoured at the time that his departure was the result of pressure from a games publisher over a negative review.

Well, five years later, we finally have confirmation, of a sort, this indeed is what took place.

As part of a recent deal that’s seen Gerstmann’s current employer Giant Bomb purchased by CBS Interactive (who also own GameSpot, his former employer), some full disclosure was needed from both parties as to what, exactly, went down that day five years ago.

So disclose Gerstmann has, confirming with GameSpot’s Jon Davison that after a succession of challenges with management and advertisers he was “called into a room” and “terminated” because he “couldn’t be trusted” as editorial director (ie, in charge of reviews), kicking off one of the saddest and sorriest episodes in an often sad and sorry relationship between games writers and games publishers.

I mean, yes, it was five years ago, and yes, it got to the point where everyone assumed the rumour was fact anyways, but to have it officially confirmed still leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

To make things clear, Gerstmann emphasises that the blame for the whole mess did not lie with GameSpot’s editorial management (as he was fired by more senior people up the ownership chain), nor with Kane & Lynch developers IO Interactive.

Interestingly, he mentions some other less-than-savoury episodes going on at the time, such as pressure from Sony and threats of pulling ad money over a less-than-perfect review for Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. This took place before the Kane & Lynch review, and thus (along with a change to the site’s review system, which brought the average of scores down) contributed to the conflict between ownership and editorial over review scores, meaning Eidos’ game shouldn’t be blamed as the sole offender.

Giant Bomb and Comic Vine are joining the CBSi Team! [GameSpot]


  • Now, I don’t have the patience to watch a half hour video… but is this article accurate? It’s leading the reader on to think that he was indeed fired over the Kane & Lynch review, but the selected words used as quotes indicates that it was an ongoing conflict with owners over a period of months or years. At least to me, editorial director indicates control over the entire site instead of just the reviews.

    inb4 Plunkett bashing.

    • I can’t view the video at work and obviously no one knows what the threat was, but if Eidos was threatening to cut all advertising ongoing, the corporate bigwigs would pretty much do anything they can to salvage that relationship.

      If a meeting occurred to discuss the review and the higher ups wanting Jeff to amend it, if Jeff ultimately rejects what is asked of him, then they could get him for dissension and/or failing to adhere to his contractual obligations.

  • I guess if the website has adverts for a product we should never trust their reviews or articles relating to said advertised products?

    Just like to point out there was alot of Vita/sony adverts recently on this very site…..

    Yes this website is entitled to earn a living, so advertise all you want but when you start putting reviews of the products you are advertising things get ‘questionable’.

    • I understand what you are saying, but this instance is the opposite though, the review was a 6, it panned the game.

      Reviews are still relevant to find out information about the game, that information should be used to judge whether or not it will be something that interests you, nothing more.

      • Right. And the person who gave a bad review of the advertiser’s product got fired.

        So the implication is that if you see any good reviews of product X on a site that also has advertisements for product X, is it because the product is good, or because the reviewer wants to keep the advertisements.

    • Nope. Gamespot is different now, they took a lot of hits for the scandal.

      Duke Nukem Forever paid a tonne of money to advertise on gamespot, and they gave it a 3.0. The ad companies DID threaten gamespot and a bunch of other sites, but they stood their ground.

  • Can someone help me?

    This reminded me of that YouTube or College Humor parody of review scores (set out to look like a movie)

    I am having no luck finding it though….anyone got a link?

  • WTF Luke, this has nothing to do with games and is from the past. My attention span only extends as far back as the last Call Of Duty game that was released. How do you even have a job LOL.

    • This actually made me laugh.
      You should really change it to “Moron Kotaku Troll”, though. Would be much more fitting 🙂

      LOL… call of duty…

    • If this wasn’t a clear flame bate I would say this “Well, it’s a GAME reviewer from a GAME website named GAMEspot”. However it is, and I say this “Tute on son…. TUTE ON!”

  • In 24 years of gaming, I have knowingly been swayed ONCE by a review to buy a game. Bayonetta… I will never read a review again. The worst pile of Dog $^# I’ve paid money to play. I go on gut instinct alone, previous experience with the genre, the developer and mates recommendations. Reviews aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.

    • Are you serious Bayonetta is one of the best games ever made. Did you play through on easy where you just mash the one button over and over again. or maybe you played the ps3 version if so I understand.

      • Mate, Bayonetta is a sick, misogynistic attempt to subconsciously stroke your penis using tired video game tropes. The “combo system” is the same as nearly every other Japanese character action game created in the last ten years. The only thing that truly separates it from it’s competition is it’s inane characters and incoherent story. “Bayonetta is one of the best games ever made” more like most schizophrenic, self indulgent pieces of entertainment I’ve had to pushed a button to interact with. Yes I played the PS3 version but I do not rate that as en excuse for developers to get away with poor gameplay, They should not have released it on PS3 if they were just going to ‘dial in’ a sub par port. I there fore, following my previous post of buying games based on developer history, will not touch another Platinum game. As is my right as a consumer, individual and internet troll.

        • “Mate, Bayonetta is a sick, misogynistic attempt to subconsciously stroke your penis”
          And that’s when you lost any credibility, from my perspective at least. I f the game’s shit give us an actual gameplay reason not aome tired sexism in gaming rant.

          btw: I do know that sexism exists, I just don’t find it an accurate criticism for games as it is prevalent in most media. As such I fell that something should be applauded for equality, but not villified for not going agaisnt what is a social norm.

      • Bayonetta is the best stylistic action game I’ve ever played. Way better than DMC, it’s one of my favourite games.

        Also, reviews aren’t printed on paper anymore Mr Akira Troll. Everyone goes off online reviews now.

  • Lets be honest, you can pick what games will be good and what won’t be miles before a review comes out. Who develops it? What have they done previously? Does the game fit into what you like?

    Just cos J Bloggs says a game is a 95/100 doesn’t mean I’m going to play it.

    • What if it is by a new dev, who haven’t done anything in the past? You’d ignore it based on that? You could miss out on something new and fresh by an up-and-coming indie dev or something.

      The reality is sometimes game suck and sometimes they don’t. The more money you have to spend on games the less it matters if you buy a couple of average ones. If you have less money to spend, do research about some titles you think you might be interested in. I think things like metacritic (the actual reviews, not the user ones, they can easily be falsified.) and game rankings usually have pretty accurate scores.

    • “Who develops it? What have they done previously?” is no longer a good way to judge the quality of a game before buying it. I mean look at Bioware, 3 mediocre-to-crappy games in a row. You wouldn’t think it was possible given all the great games they’ve put out before that, but there it is. The only developer that I somewhat trust is Valve because they’re a private company and they proven many times that they’re willing to delay a game to improve the quality

  • If he was sacked over the Kane and Lynch review, the question needs to be asked…why was the review left on the site in original unedited form?

    • At the time that would ultimately prove the story to be true and be more damaging to Gamespot/Eidos?

      As Luke actually mentions, it was 5 years ago, it’s not going to cause as much drama.

  • And that children is why the sooner we dispose of modern video game reviews the better. You know how I review a game to a friend? Summarise it’s good points and bad points, and at the end say whether or not I recommend playing it. None of that number rating BS. None of that “THIS GAME SUCKS – 8/10” nonsense.

    Simple question, simple answer. Would you recommend I play it? Yes/No

    • I don’t think saying do you recommend i play it should be their either.

      Since in essence then your just giving it a like/Dislike feature which is still a scoring system. Albeit i binary one.

      It should simply be here is my review. You know who I am(The Byline, which is Giant Bombs whole thing) you should know what I like and dislike. My review is my opinion on it. Knowing that compare whether knowing my preferences and my review on the game whether it is for you or not.

      Someone could recommend not getting something because it had a buggy launch which would be an appropriate response. But 3 months later when the bugs are gone that review is still going to say no and still be a negative remark. Which is an issue since most people don’t read reviews(hence why metacritic exists) So they see a “No/Yes” without context.

      It also would remove issues where a reviewer spends a 1/3 pointing out the negatives and still gives it an 8. Because for them the negatives weren’t an issue. For the guy that went off the score and not the review content those bugs may be an issue that makes it far worse.

      The same holds true for a Yes/No threshold. Some would have said that Batman Arkham City was a Yes, but mentioned in the review the DX11 didn’t work on PC at launch(not sure if it does now). Which for those guys who want their machines working their hardest could be a “No, Until the game is patched”

  • I’m glad this came out. Just a little bit of closure to a terrible story that reveals how tainted the world of vidja gaem ratings is.

  • Giant Bomb Loves Gerstmann and so do i, im glad he is no longer with Gamespot as they are the apitimy of fail in the gaming news/reviews community.

  • Leaving Gamespot was the best thing he ever did. I’m glad he left all that bureaucratic bullshit and founded Giant Bomb with the other boys, which is probably my only gold standard for videogame criticism, mostly because I’m now familiar with each of their tastes and how attuned it is to my own, and their content is so personality based that it’s generally hilarious. Gamespot in the meantime is now part corporate shilling, but so PG it’s unbearable, with not a single personality amongst them. IGN is even worse with their terrible pandering hires (Jessica Chobot.)

    This sort of thing happens all the time in tech journalism. When AOL tried to interfere with advertising on Engadget, Josh Topolsky left with nearly all the senior editors to found the much superior The Verge. Brian Crecente left this very publication with Chris Grant (Joystiq) and now both are producing far better content than ever before on Verge-affiliated Vox Gaming.

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